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A: This is due to the makeup of the air through which the lightning has to pass to get to ground. Air is a combination of many different gases and particles all of which has different resistance levels. The lightning energy follows the path of 'least resistance' causing the energy to travel in different directions giving the appearance of a zigzag path to earth.
A: Lightning travels in both directions.
A: Yes. Lightning will most probable strike the same place more than once. It may happen in the same storm or in a thousand years, however it will eventually happen.
A: While an appealing idea. With current technology, the answer is no. A Lightning event is extremely fast and even though it delivers a huge amount of energy, it is actually delivering very little usable energy. The technology to capture and store this energy does not exist at this point in time. However who knows what we will be able to do in the future.
A: Lightning will follow the path of least resistance to ground. This causes the lightning to appear to zigzag across the sky. Depending on your vantage point, the lightning can appear to loop back on itself or even go upwards, however be assured that it is most definitely heading to ground.
A: Yes. Lightning strikes regularly occur at sea and in lakes and bodies of water. When the potential difference between the earth and the cloud reaches the threshold it has to equalize causing a flashover to occur. If this is over a body of water then the lightning will discharge into the water.
A: The human mind can not always determine correctly what it is seeing, especially if it occurs in rapid succession. While the second or third strike appears to occur at the same time as the first strike, they are actually occurring a fraction of a second after the preceding strike and it could occur at any distance from the strike point of the first discharge. Normally the second and following strikes will travel down the same ionized path developed by the first discharge; however this event will be determined by variables such as wind speed causing dissipation of the ionized path, speed of the cloud, etc. Basically, the more time between the strikes, the greater chance of a new path to be formed and the appearance of a split to occur.
A: Ball lightning is still a mystery. As it is a rare event, no scientific experimentation or research has been conducted. Thus, apart from eyewitness accounts, there is very limited information available on this topic. The National Geographic Lightning Web site has a photo of what may be ball lightning, however it has not been confirmed or investigated.
A: A lightning strike onto sand causes the silica in the sand to melt forming the glass tube often found. The tube is a direct representation of the shape of the lightning channel that formed it. These glass tubes are called 'FULGURITES'.
A: Today's technology is extremely sensitive with microprocessors having next to no tolerance to over-voltages or under-voltages. When a lightning discharge occurs, it generates a massive electromagnetic field similar to an electromagnet pulse. This pulse or field will induce a potential into all metal conductors within a kilometer of two of the strike point. The magnitude of the induced potential will be determined by the magnitude of the lightning strike. This induced potential or surge will travel up the power of phone cable until it finds a point that it can go to ground. This can quite often be via electrical equipment causing catastrophic damage to that equipment. Protection of this equipment is a simply accomplished by installing a surge protection device (SPD) on any power or data cables entering or leaving the equipment. Even fridges and stoves and dishwashers are now susceptible to power surges as many of these products are now microprocessor controlled.
A: Simple... get indoors or under shelter. Lightning can strike up to 5 kilometers ahead of a storm front, so if you see lightning and the thunder follows within 30 seconds then get indoors or take shelter until the storm has passed, or even get in your car, providing it is a modern car with a large percentage of plastic interior and a metal body. Stay there until the storm has passed or until there is 30 seconds between the lightning and the thunder. When you have gone indoors, stay away from windows and doors, avoid using a phone connected to a base station or land line, and do not take a shower. If you are no where near any shelter then your options are very limited. The most important thing to do is to reduce your height so you are not the highest point and bring your feet together to remove the possibility of step potential. This means that if you are on a hill top get off. If it is too late or if you are in an open field, you have to squat down into a tight ball with your feet together preferably standing on one foot. I know this would be an extremely uncomfortable position to assume and I am sure many of us would have a great difficulty in assuming this position; however it is the safest position to assume. DO NOT STAND UNDER OR NEAR A TREE. Obviously the best approach is to not get caught in the open. If storms are a part of the forecast then maybe you should rethink your activities for the day.